That’s pretty much what I said as I read one of my old papers last night.
While on the good ole Facebook last night, I was looking at my college pictures. Two of them included me with a finalized copy of a paper I wrote my freshman year. This was no ordinary paper, friends. This was 25 pages. As a freshman, I saw this as an insurmountable task. However, somehow I managed to finish it. Fortunately, my professor also had mercy on me as a first year student when he graded that paper.
Anywho, seeing the pictures made me want to go back and read through part of that paper. I’ll tell you what, that paper is a piece of junk — or at least I think so. It is so judgement-laden and full of assumptions and opinion that it likely would belong on FOX or MSNBC. That being said, hindsight is 20/20. I didn’t take a historical methods class, so I didn’t really understand the purpose of history (nor am I a master of it now), so naturally that paper has many errors that as I look back on it, I wish I could erase. Nevertheless, I think cringing as I read through an old paper has to mean I have grown at least a little bit.
Now recognizing that I do not have a responsibility to judge, I feel so much freer when I research and write. Instead of always having to seek to defend a figure I am particularly fond of or attack a figure I do not like, I can do what we at Reckless Historians strive to do… Let the past speak for itself. It’s because of that, that I will probably not revise my old paper 1) because it is so laced in opinion and judgement that it does not resemble a history paper (or at least that is what I think) 2) because it serves as a reminder of the true purpose of history, and it helps me see that I am growing in the field (slowly but hopefully steady as well) and that this journey to understanding the discipline of history is constantly moving, and seeing those movements excite me.